PICAYUNE — The campaign for the Fourth Congressional District seat occupied by Democrat Congressman Gene Taylor of Bay St. Louis is heating up as another GOP candidate, State Rep. Steven Palazzo, has filed to run against Joe Tegerdine in the Republican race. Taylor faces no Democratic opposition.
In addition, Tegerdine has accused Taylor of charging publicly that the Tegerdine campaign has mounted a cyber-attack on his Web site, a charge that Tegerdine maintains is false.
The exchange between Taylor and Tegerdine allegedly occurred at the dedication ceremonies for the Trent Lott Center at USM in March.
Tegerdine on Friday maintained in an interview with the Item that the incident between him and Taylor did happen.
The incident was reported in at least one blog but not picked up by the other Mississippi media. Only one radio station, in addition to the blog, ran a story about the exchange.
Tegerdine said that he approached Taylor at the Lott dedication to shake his hand and that Taylor accused him of “tampering with his Web site, and told me that was a federal offense.”
Tegerdine maintained that Taylor told him there was an investigation underway. Tegerdine said that he was surprised by Taylor’s remarks, which were made in front of a number of attendees.
Tegerdine said he followed Taylor outside and told Taylor that if he found anyone in his campaign doing that, they would be immediately dismissed. However, he said he told Taylor he was denying the charge.
After the incident, Tegerdine was quoted by “The Mississippi Conservative” blog as saying, “I am really disappointed by Congressman Taylor’s behavior. I think we expect a higher level of professionalism and decorum from our elected officials. It confirms again to me why I am in this race; we deserve better.”
On Saturday Taylor’s wife, Margaret, speaking on behalf of Taylor, said that the Congressman would have no reply to Tegerdine’s comments, although she did say that investigators were looking into the attacks.
“He (Tegerdine) is running a very agressive campaign, trying to get as much publicity as possible, and his strategy is to attack Gene as much as he can. His campaign is negative. At the appropriate time, Gene will respond. They (the Republicans) have not even selected a candidate yet, so we will have to wait and see who Gene will be running against.”
Margaret Taylor helps coordinate her husband’s campaign.
This is not the first time that Taylor and Tegerdine have clashed.
On his first campaign appearance in Picayune, Tegerdine last fall called Taylor “a closet liberal,” and Taylor, asked about the charge at a PRCC forum in January, called Tegerdine a “liar” and told the reporter who asked the question, “Tell him I said he is a liar.”
Tegerdine, when asked about it replied, “All you have to do is look at his voting record.”